Archive for May 11th, 2012


Student Loan Entrance Counseling is a Joke

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How am I Going to Repay Student Loans?To humor myself, I just spent the last five minutes retaking the student loan entrance counseling quiz that I had to take prior to taking out approximately $120,000 in student loans. By my calculations, it is the most worthless, mind-numbing experience of my academic career and financial life. Anyone who has ever been through it may agree – student loan entrance counseling is a joke.

Student Loan Entrance Counseling: Built and Designed for Morons

In order to take out federal student loans, students are required, by law, to complete entrance and exit loan counseling. When you think of counseling, you typically think of sitting in a room with a person discussing the challenges you face. Well, let me tell you, student loan entrance counseling takes a totally different approach that would be an embarrassment to anyone in the history of the counseling field. Here is what it takes to get an enormous amount of debt:

  1. Click through the instructions and pick your school
  2. Read sixteen web pages of text
  3. At the end of each page, answer one or two questions (the answers are above the questions)
  4. Get the questions right or wrong (it doesn’t matter whether you learn anything or not)
  5. Confirm that you have read the Borrower’s Rights and Responsibilities Statement
  6. Click Submit

And you’re done! Oh yeah, if you need a little help, here is the answer key:

  • For every True/False question, the answer is TRUE.
  • For every multiple choice questions, the answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE

That’s it! You are now eligible to take out an enormous amount of debt, mortgage your future and take your spot in line for a lifelong struggle with debt. Enjoy!

Bureaucrats Pretending to Be Lenders

If you taught driver’s education and one of your students never went to class, failed the written exam, got into three wrecks, hit ten children, and got a DUI during the driving test, would you give them a driver’s license? I doubt it. When it comes to taking out student loans, there isn’t much quality control. You could be drunk, dumb and dying and still find it within yourself to pass through the student loan entrance counseling process. It is pathetic.

Student loan entrance counseling is a prime example of the ineptitude of government to manage the country’s financial affairs responsibly. Rather than educating people about student loans and offering access to legitimate financial counseling services, the powers that be prefer to create a ridiculous, online alternative that any nincompoop can pass. With student loan debt surpassing the $1 trillion mark, you would think the government would be less interested making it easy for people to get more loans and more interested in educating, equipping and empowering people to become better borrowers.

Back in my days in banking, we had criteria by which we made lending decisions. Our credit decisions were all based on the 5 C’s:

  • Character
  • Capacity
  • Capital
  • Collateral
  • Conditions

After completing the student loan entrance counseling process, I’m pretty sure none of those factors are considered. It seems to me that all you need to get a student loan and pass the student loan entrance counseling quiz was what I call the four P’s. You need a:

  • Pulse
  • Promise
  • PC
  • PIN Number

What is the Solution?

As the presidential candidates, Congress and the press debate over the student loan issue, there seems to be more people harping on the problems and very few offering viable solutions. If they are truly serious about fixing our student loan system, reducing the nation’s exposure to student loans and improving the financial futures of the next generation, there are a few key areas where they may want to focus:

  • Lowering Default Rates – Perhaps measures need to be put into place to ensure that students have at least a couple of the 5 C’s before writing them a blank check to pay for college. Rather than demonizing everyone who has worked in financial services, now may be a good time for our country’s leaders to learn a few lending lessons from the people who have done it for hundreds of years.
  • Educating Prospective Borrowers – Creating a system comparable to the driver’s education system in the United States may be a bit overboard. But directing resources toward financial education programs on college campuses may be a great way to improve financial literacy in America while lowering default rates.
  • Supporting Current Borrowers – The infrastructure to support the millions of student loan borrowers does not exist. There are informal support networks, credit counseling agencies and financial education programs out there to help people with student loan debt. Perhaps now may be a good time to invest in building out our country’s financial education and counseling infrastructure so we can get back the $1 trillion we loaned out to students.
  • Incentivizing Good Behavior – Remember when your parents used to give you $5 for A’s on your report card? Perhaps lawmakers should consider a similar approach to student loan entrance and exit loan counseling. If you score well, perhaps you get an interest rate reduction or some other incentive. They have similar incentives for setting up direct deposit. Why not give people an incentive to learn about the loans they take out as well?
  • Making Education Affordable – The cost of higher education has more than doubled the rate of inflation over the last 10 years. What incentive do schools have to lower costs if the Department of Education is willing to give students unlimited access to loans? Higher education is becoming a luxury in America, and it is high time to focus on fixing the problem.
  • Offering Competitive Interest Rates – It is cheaper for me to get a mortgage to buy a home than to take out student loans and go to school. What type of message does that send to the public regarding the value lawmakers place on education?

The Bottom Line

Our nation is facing a ton of financial challenges right now, not the least of which is its overexposure to student loans. Today, total student loan debt outstanding is greater than all credit card debt and car loans combined. That’s enormous. So rather than redirecting the conversation away from the real problems with student loan debt for political purposes, I challenge our country’s law makers to stand up and take action to solve this growing problem in America. Now is the time to quit your bickering, grow up and tackle this issue not as Republicans and Democrats, but as Americans. Our country’s future and the financial futures of millions of Americans depend on it.

  • YoBucko, YoBucko is a personal finance website that helps young people learn how to save, pay off debt and invest for the future. We offer free access to a wealth of information and tools to help people make smarter financial decisions.

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Article from NYTimes.

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Matt Cohler was employee No. 7 at Facebook. Adam D’Angelo joined his high school friend Mark Zuckerberg’s quirky little start-up in 2004 — and became its chief technology officer. Ruchi Sanghvi was the first woman on its engineering team.

All have left Facebook. None are retiring. With lucrative shares and a web of valuable industry contacts, they have left to either create their own companies, or bankroll their friends.

With Facebook’s public offering in mid-May, more will probably join their ranks in what could be one of Facebook’s lasting legacies — a new generation of tech tycoons looking to create or invest in, well, the next Facebook.

“The history of Silicon Valley has always been one generation of companies gives birth to great companies that follow,” said Mr. Cohler, who, at 35, is now a partner at Benchmark Capital, and an investor in several start-ups created by his old friends from Facebook. “People who learned at one set of companies often go on to start new companies on their own.”

“The very best companies, like Facebook,” he continued, “end up being places where people who come there really learn to build things.”

This is the story line of Silicon Valley, from Apple to Netscape to PayPal and now, to Facebook. Every public offering creates a new circle of tech magnates with money to invest. This one, though, with a jaw-dropping $100 billion valuation, will create a far richer fraternity.

Its members will be, by and large, young men, mostly white and Asian who, if nothing else, understand the value of social networks. And they have the money. Some early executives at Facebook have already sold their shares on the private market and have millions of dollars at their disposal.

Mr. Cohler, for example, is at the center of a complex web of business and social connections stemming from Facebook.

In 2002, barely two years out of Yale, he was at a party where he met Reid Hoffman, a former PayPal executive who was part of a slightly older social circle. The two men “hit it off,” as Mr. Cohler recalled on the online question-and-answer platform, Quora (which was co-founded by Mr. D’Angelo). He became Mr. Hoffman’s protégé, assisting him with his entrepreneurial investments, and following him to his new start-up, LinkedIn.

Then, Mr. Cohler joined a company that Mr. Hoffman and several other ex-PayPal executives were backing: Facebook.

Mr. Cohler stayed at Facebook from 2005 to 2008, as it went from being a college site to a mainstream social network. One of his responsibilities was to recruit the best talent he could find, including from other companies.

Mr. Cohler left the company to retool himself into a venture capitalist. He has since been valuable to his old friends from Facebook.

Through his venture firm, Mr. Cohler has raised money for several companies founded by Facebook alumni, including Quora, created in 2010 by Mr. D’Angelo and another early Facebook engineer, Charlie Cheever. Other companies include Asana, which provides software for work management and was created in 2009 by Dustin Moskovitz, a Facebook co-founder; and Peixe Urbano, a Brazilian commerce Web site conceived by Julio Vasconcellos, who managed Facebook’s Brazil office in São Paulo.

Mr. Cohler has put his own money into Path, a photo-sharing application formed in 2010 by yet another former Facebook colleague, Dave Morin. Path is also bankrolled by one of Facebook’s venture backers: Greylock Partners, where Mr. Hoffman is a partner.

And he has invested in Instagram, which was scooped up by Facebook itself for a spectacular $1 billion. “Thrilled to see two companies near and dear to my heart joining forces!” Mr. Cohler posted on Twitter after the acquisition.

Instagram clearly was a good bet; it is impossible to say whether any of the other investments Mr. Cohler or other Facebookers are making will catch fire or whether the start-ups they found will last. Certainly, there is so much money in the Valley today that start-ups have room to grow without even a notion of turning a profit.

Ms. Sanghvi, one of the company’s first 20 employees, married a fellow Facebook engineer, Aditya Agarwal. Mr. Zuckerberg attended their wedding in Goa, India.

Read the rest of this article here.

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